E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Owl in an Ivy Bush (Like an).
Very ugly, a horrible fright [of a fellow]. Said of (or to) a person who has dressed his head unbecomingly, or that has a scared look, an untidy head of hair, or that looks inanely wise. The ivy bush was supposed to be the favourite haunt of owls, and numerous allusions to this supposition might be readily cited.